Tuesday, 11 January 2011

No Impact Week - Day 3 - Transportation

Today was to have been a breeze - until I booked a pair of Easyjet flights! More of that later.

I don't own a car - never have and hopefully never will. I don't really need one, nor even want one. I'm quite happy to get around on foot or by public transport and I have organised my life to ensure that almost everything I require is within walking distance.

Walking is great. It's good for my health (and my figure). It's cheap. It allows me space to think. It gives me greater control over my movements. But most importantly, in No Impact Week, it is sustainable.

I only wish I could be as positive about public transport. Don't get me wrong. I'm a passionate believer in it in all its forms. It's just that it doesn't work very well in Bristol or the UK.

Bristol's bus service is run by a private company. Most of the buses are presentable and the drivers helpful, but fares are high, customer information is woefully inadequate, routes are limited and evening and Sunday services are patchy and sometimes non existent. As a result it's not nearly as widely patronised as it could be. Even I only use it when I have to. I'd almost always much rather walk.

The UK's rail service is run by a number of private companies. The track is owned by another. The standard fares are prohibitive and the process of purchasing them so complicated that it defies all but the most determined traveller. An article in last Saturday's Guardian suggested a variety of strategies for getting the best deal, which included shopping for the cheapest online booking website and splitting long distance journeys into smaller sections! Why does it need to be so complicated?

Which brings me back to those Easyjet tickets. My younger daughter wishes to visit her older sister in Glasgow. The cheapest train fare (two singles are cheaper than a return!) would have cost £121. The two Easyjet flights cost £53. Even allowing for the cost of the airport bus fares at either end (£10 in Bristol and £7 in Glasgow) the rail option is almost twice as expensive - and so much longer! It is, of course, true that had I started looking six weeks ago when the rail tickets were first released I could have got them much cheaper, but it's not always possible to plan one's life three months in advance. So on this occasion I sacrificed my principles in favour of ease and economy. I wish it had been otherwise. However, until our government seriously addresses the environmental discrepancies in its transport policy there will be little incentive to take the more sustainable option.

Still, I don't often fly. Our last holiday flights were to Greece in 2006. I have only flown four times since, thrice to/from Edinburgh when my Dad was dying and once from Glasgow to allow us more time to settle our daughter into university. It's important not to let principles override other more important considerations when they arise.

Today I walked to work as usual. However, given that it is no more than a quarter of a mile from home this is no hardship. I popped out to the shops on foot at lunchtime and walked to a friends' house for dinner.

The five things for which I am grateful today
Sunshine and blue skies
The internet
A busy day to keep me distracted
Old friends
Lemon drizzle cake


  1. You're lucky you can walk nearly everywhere. I'm sure it must keep you very fit as I remember Bristol is on the hilly side. Long may you continue.

    It is so silly that train fares are dearer than the price of air travel - as you say, the government needs to address this and give us a more efficient train service, not to mention the buses. Subsidising public transport no longer seems fashionable, but I'm sure it would help with global warming if we had good, affordable public transport.

  2. I believe that public transport needs renationalising, but there's very little hope of any of the major parties adopting this as a manifesto commitment. As long as it's run for the benefit of the shareholders the passengers (and the environment) are always going to suffer.

  3. I'm afraid you are probably right, Gai, unless there is a large national movement of people trying to do something about it, and I'm not aware of one.